The Most Beneficial Thing You’ll Learn On Guitar

Arpeggios, Scales, Chords, Riffs, Licks, Solos, Songs, Sweeping, Legato, Slides, Sight Reading, Tapping, Improvising… There are so many concepts for the guitar. With so much to learn and practice, what could possibly be the BEST thing you’ll ever learn on guitar??

I actually think that’s quite simple and obvious. It’s exercises.

Whoa, hang on a second… does this mean that all those cool shredding licks and solos that use tapping sweeping and alternate picking all combined, aren’t as good?! After all, they’re usually a lead guitarist’s favourite thing to play. I would say – correct!

You see, all of the above topics are fantastic and completely ESSENTIAL for any guitarist wanting to improve and reach their full musical potential. But one of the main areas that push you to the next level is exercises. And at the end of the day, all of those cool licks, solos, techniques, riffs and songs just become exercises that you remember and play frequently. Exercises give us the physical ability to play the guitar. Without them, we would lack the fundamental technique to play notes.

You may disagree (and that’s ok!), but my point is that everything you learn like songs solos etc, will largely be forgotten over the course of many years, except for a few basic riffs or licks will be remembered and played frequently – these have now become exercises. Do you think I can remember all of Steve Vai’s Tender Surrender? Actually, yes I can. But I can’t remember all of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Lenny, though I do remember several licks which I used to play all the time. These licks acted as exercises to improve my skills.

So what should we do with this mindset?

1) Well, I practice exercises for about half an hour every day. I then move on to songs such as Arpeggios From Hell – these songs act as exercises anyway. Your approach to practice should be similar. Have some scales, exercises etc. and then choose to frequently practice songs (or parts of songs) that really work your fingers and brain.

2) Steal from songs. Not literally. But whenever you learn or hear a song and there’s a lick that you think is cool or challenging – go to the effort of memorising it and practicing it during every practice session. I very much believe in learning songs so that you can learn FROM the song.

3) Mix it up. Whilst I really love the efficiency of playing through the same practice routine every time as your bare minimum, keeping your practice fresh and interesting is till important. Some past students have liked the idea of having “Tapping Day”, “Sweeping Day” or “Legato Day”. This approach is similar to a gym junkie who might have Leg Day, Chest Day, Arm Day etc. Find what works well for you and then stick with it. Mindset is extremely important for playing and practicing the guitar!

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *